The College is committed to the art of writing as an instrument of learning and evaluation in all aspects of its curriculum. It therefore offers first-year students instruction in rhetoric to develop their abilities as writers and thinkers in the context of the demands placed on them as college students.
The rhetoric courses show students how the process of writing is itself a mode of thinking deeply and clearly about any subject. Faculty instruct students in a variety of widely applicable strategies for generating ideas, drafting, and revising, with attention to both grammatical correctness and stylistic refinement. Students learn to synthesize ideas from their reading and to develop an effective thesis; they learn modes of organization and argumentation; and finally, they learn methods of library research and proper documentation. In addition to these specific objectives, the rhetoric faculty attempt to inculcate in their students a sensitivity to the power of language and an ability to assess arguments and evaluate opinions.
Classes of approximately 15 students meet twice each week; in the first semester there is an additional class meeting focusing on oral argumentation. Students write constantly and copiously in class as well as out and develop their ideas for the formal papers through a writing process that includes class discussion, prewriting exercises, draft revision, and conferences with the instructor.